Last year, after one of my presentations, an audience member came over to chat.
He told me that once a year, he and the other members of his local service club go to the garden centre, pick out flowers and then head over on a Saturday morning to a home in his neighbourhood where several people with disabilities live, to plant the gardens for them. He asked what I thought of this gesture. I commended him for his act of community service and for his efforts to create a caring neighbourhood. I then very politely recommended that he consider undertaking this activity with the people who reside in the residence.
He asked me to explain what I meant. I suggested he could meet with his neighbours who have a disability to see if they would like to be part of a project to make their gardens more beautiful. If there was a positive response, he could ask the residents if they would like to go to the garden centre to pick out the flowers for their gardens. Then everyone could plant the flowers together. He replied, “Thanks, I’ll think about your idea.”
I was not convinced I had made a difference in his thinking; however, a few months later I received an email from him. He began by telling me he had taken my suggestion back to his service club members and they had decided to try this new approach. The first paragraph of the email was filled with details of the extra effort they needed to make the garden planting adventure more inclusive. In the next several paragraphs, he outlined the fun everyone had together and the social relationships that were established. He ended the email with this statement: “John, I now know the difference between doing something ‘for’ someone and doing something ‘with’ someone. The latter is so much better. Great things really do happen in inclusive communities.”
I fully agree.